tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC October 4, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
you know that nate he silver has updated his chances of the president winning to 86.4 which is the highest chance of winning. so much for that debate and so much for romney attacking big bird. thank you for joining me. >> the ed show is up next. the day after. let's play "hardball." ♪ good evening. i'm chris matthews back in washington. let me start tonight with two big questions, "hardball" questions if you will. one, why? why did what happened last night happen? why did a president who has proven himself as a policy expert and world class politician let the other guy take charge? because if he can't answer that question, he may be doomed to defeat in the remaining two debates. second big question, can a victory over the facts of last
night's debate, what was true and what was not, turn the tables now? can barack obama win by getting out the word he didn't get out last night? and both are big questions tonight that might just decide this presidential election. i'm joined by governor ed rendell and ron reagan, both msnbc analysts. this is a tough blog by a guy who has been very strong for obama over the years. andrew sullivan of the daily beast. he wrote this last night, basically just at the end of the debate. this was a disaster for the president for the key people he needs to reach. his effete wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving romney a second look. obama looked tired, even bored. he kept looking down. he wasn't there. the person with authority on that stage was romney. offered by one of the lamest moderators ever and seized with relish. this was romney the salesman and my gut tells me he sold a few voters on a change tonight. it's beyond depressing, but it's true.
gentlemen, that's a tough assessment. it's matched by this, i'm showing you one of the strongest headlines, a full banner basically giving it completely to romney last night. governor rendell, you have been in a lot of tough debates. i don't know what you thought. i guess i'm known as an obama supporter and i certainly wanted him to do well last night, and yet i don't get it. i don't quite get it. i thought romney's performance, let's call it that, was masterful. i don't know what the president was up to last night. your thoughts. >> well, i agree with andrew sullivan. i think he's right on in all his points and i agree with you. romney did -- governor romney was terrific last night. he did all the things he had to do to get back in this race, and i am also mystified at the president's strategy. you know, chris, i'm a good sports fan. in fact, i even do sports tv and i write -- >> i know you do. >> and there's a great sports analogy. when you play the perfect defense when you have a lead, when you try to sit on the ball in basketball when you have got
a lead, when you play conservative, what often happens is you lose the lead. and i can't for the life of me believe that that's what they did, but that's the only explanation. they told the president, don't be confrontational. they told the president, be above it all, act presidential. but the one thing that gets me when i was running for re-election as mayor and when i was running for re-election as governor and even d.a., i had a passion for what we'd accomplished. i had a passion to explain where we didn't accomplish something, why we didn't, what the roadblocks were, and he could have done that without being aggressive, without being snarky towards governor romney. but he could have said, governor, you haven't been there. i'm in this office and when i took over, the nation's financial structure was about to collapse. i did some very difficult things and it turned this country's fate around. we've added jobs 31 straight months in a row. we're moving in the right direction. i inherited a mess and i've made it better.
he believes that to be true, i know he does, but say it and say it with some passion. >> and my question to you, ron, was where was the music and the passion last night of the president. why didn't he just go in there and say here is 15 minutes and i can talk about anything i want. jim lehrer is not getting in my way. why didn't he say here is why i stuck out my neck for the american auto industry. >> absolutely. >> it's not just about jobs. i feel american people like to build cars. we love cars. it's in our nature to build them and build the best. it's important that guys and women have jobs making cars. it's important to who we are as americans. maybe general motors was good -- damn it, it's good to have general motors, something passionate that would have gone right to ohio, to pennsylvania, wisconsin. they would have said, damn it, this guy gets how much thrill i get getting on that line every day and turning out these great cars that i want to buy. why didn't -- how about women? a girl ought to know from the time she's 16 her hours are as valuable as the male's hour of work. these are passionate things he believes in. he stood there like he was an observer of romney's performance. i could go on -- i got to let you talk. i could go on. go ahead. >> you could go on. we might want you to stand in
for barack obama. >> i could do this show alone tonight actually, but go ahead. >> as you have observed, chris, essentially last night two things happened. one is that the president inexplicably bizarrely just failed to show up. and the other thing is mitt romney lied his ass off. now, the white house needs to do something about that first thing. they need to rectify that. but the second thing that happened gives them the opportunity to do that, and you can see them pivoting in that direction today. today barack obama is calling out mitt romney's lies, but your question is a good one. why on earth did he not do it last night? >> by the way, can george custer change -- can he attack cochise after the battle? when you lose, you lose, don't you? i think custer had a secret plan but we'll never know what it was because he got massacred. just a thought. >> david axelrod said today that they made a strategic decision they weren't going to fact check mitt romney.
mitt romney's entire campaign is based on mendacity. their convention was themed on a lie. might i submit to you that fact checking him might be the right way to go. >> i hate the word like to enter the discussion but so many things had nothing to do with mitt romney's reality. the president had opportunity after opportunity to go after romney on his policies, but he wasn't taking the bait. here are some issues he could have pounced on romney for. let's watch. >> i will not reduce the taxes paid by high income americans. with regards to young people coming along, i have got proposals to make sure medicare and social security are there for them without any question. number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan. we've had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8%. if i'm president, i will create -- help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes. >> governor, i don't know how he got away with it. i don't know why the president didn't say it. he wants to get rid of the estate tax. the wealthiest people that got a
quarter billion bucks in the bank, they want to keep it for their kids when they're gone. that's for the rich. 47%, he said people on social security are a bunch of bums and parasites. now he's saying i just want to save what they have. and this thing about pre-existing condition. he didn't tell the truth last night. he doesn't have a plan to cover it. >> he lied. >> his guy came out and made sure, he said he didn't mean to say that because he only meant people who already had a policy. obviously they do get coverage. your thoughts. go at it, governor. >> well, chris, the biggest and worst lie of all, because it's the central issue facing us, is that he's not going to cut taxes for rich people. i have seen him on tape five times saying he's going to give a 20% across the board tax cut to everyone. the top bracket will go from 35% to 28%. well, that's the richest people in the country. what in god's name is he talking about? he's giving people who made $2 million or $3 million a year a quarter of a million dollar tax cut. that's his plan. it's the ryan budget. he said he would sign the ryan budget. it's the romney plan.
he said it four or five times that i have seen on tape. it's a bald-faced lie and he got away with it last night. he got away with it because the president was very tepid in the way he called him on it. and what the president should have said is come on, mitt, i have seen you on tape five times saying you're going to cut the tax rate for everyone by 20%. that means the richest americans are going to get their rate down from 35% to 28%. how can you stand there and lie to the american people? you have got to play hardball. that's the name of the show. >> lying is exactly what he was doing there. i didn't mean to interrupt governor, but lying is exactly what he was doing. the pre-existing condition one was the most shocking to me. the fact is his plan does not cover pre-existing conditions for people who don't have insurance already. he pretended that it did. that's just a lie. what, does he not know about his own health care plan? >> okay, why didn't the president say that? let me just tell you this, there
is one advantage to doing this show every night. you guys commenting on it every night. we're up to date. there are a couple things i don't know if the president was up to date on. did he know mitt romney had said basically i'm not going to cover people unless they already have a policy from a private insurance company? does he know that as recently as a few weeks ago the president said if you don't have health insurance, we're not going to let you die in your apartment. he admitted he didn't have a health care plan and then gets on -- why didn't the president say, on "60 minutes" didn't you tell scott pelley, blah, blah, blah? didn't you say this to david gregory? why didn't he call him on the day-to-day stuff? you on this, governor. why isn't he up to date to fight this guy? this is day-to-day battle. >> i believe he must have been prepped on that stuff, chris. that's what the whole exercise is for. when you do a debate, they give you reams of paper about everything your opponent said on every issue, everything you have said in the past on every issue. he must have been prepped on it. for some reason he decided not to correct and not to attack
except in this sort of scholarly way like a law professor which left a lot of americans cold. >> what do you think the strategy was? what was his strategy, governor? must have been something his guys were putting into his ears. what were they saying for him they thought he ought to do. >> big lead, make no mistakes, make no mistakes, number one. number two, preserve your likability so don't be too aggressive and don't beat up mitt romney too badly, but it's a confounding strategy. it never works. chris, when have you seen the prevent defense work? never. >> richard nixon tried it, and richard nixon got blown away. anyway, the president seemed to have regained a bit of his fighting spirit today. good for him. here he was at a campaign event right there in denver. >> when i got onto the stage, i met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be mitt romney. but it couldn't have been mitt romney because the real mitt
romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts to favor the wealthy. the fellow on stage said last night he didn't know anything about that. governor romney may dance around his positions, but if you want to be president, you owe the american people the truth. >> the trouble is 58 million people were just told by nielsen, 58 million, the preliminary estimate watched last night, that was an audience we'll probably never see again, and he now -- >> and probably 2 million, chris, 2 million will see what he said today. can you imagine if he had said on stage last night and said, hey, who is this fellow i'm debating? it can't be mitt romney.
mitt romney has been going around saying he's giving everyone a 20% tax cut. it would have been a killer of a line. where was it? >> yeah. ron, this thing about i've had a theory expounded to me, your dad was involved in a theory, that presidents, once you have heard "hail to the chief" about four years, it's very hard to get up for a debate. this was true with george sr., george jr., and reagan. do you think there's a problem with being an incumbent. >> yes, you're not challenged all the time for sure. i know president obama believes he's done many good things for the country. show some passion, defend yourself. >> i agree. >> he didn't do that. he let governor romney just go through this litany. don't you agree, ron? >> hold on. thank you. go ahead, ron. >> yeah. the analogy to a prevent defense is exactly the one. you know, in politics if you're not winning, you're losing. you've got to stay on offense, you've got to keep pushing all
the way through and he just didn't do that. >> we got a pretty good reading by you guys. thank you ed and ron reagan. coming up the day after romney said a lot of things last night that sounded good but -- inaccurate. i hate the word lie. if the president's team can make that case, they can win the aftermath even if mr. romney lost the performance battle last night. plus, what's wrong with this picture? the president looking down at his notes is just one of the many images that made last night such a rough one for the president. the great james lipton of inside the actor studio joins us for the review of the theater of politics. who turned out to be the biggest winner? you might think it's this guy but, in fact, it might be this guy, big bird. he lives on sesame street. big bird began trending on twitter just moments after romney said he'd cut off his funding. i guess romney considers big bird a 47%er. a sloucher. my day after review of how that debate could have gone the other way. this is "hardball," the place for politics. those little things still get you.
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the first debate in the books, president obama and mitt romney are back on the campaign trail today. the president left colorado today and travelled to wisconsin. then on to virginia and ohio for mr. romney. mitt romney's campaigns in virginia and then florida. monday he's expected, as he said, to start filling in the policy details with the first of several speeches starting with foreign policy. we'll be right back.
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welcome back to "hardball." last night was a tough night for the president, of course, but there's another story to be told about mitt romney's performance, which relied on fuzzy math. vague policy prescriptions and statements that strained the truth. i'm being nice here. he denied his tax plan would cost $5 trillion. denied it. independent economists say it's the case. "the new york times" editorial today, they got out overnight,
says the following, virtually every time mr. romney spoke, he misrepresented the platform on which he and paul ryan are actually running. that's quite a statement. and a new york magazine jonathan challenged romney over his economic plan that seems to rely on some magical numbers and thinking, quote, so romney is a candidate of a 20% cut in tax rates, a new plan to cover people with pre-existing conditions and higher defense spending and he will accomplish it all by eliminating federal funding for pbs. the question is can obama and his team win the post-debate debate by highlighting some of this nonsense and romney's fuzzy language? willy brown is the former mayor of san francisco, former speaker of the house out there. joan walsh is editor-at-large for salon and the author of "what's the matter with white people." i want to get to these points. can you win on the facts having lost perhaps on performance value? >> it's very, very difficult to get people in the world observing politicians to ever come to the substance. they always go for style. they always are influenced by performances, and i believe mr. obama took a licking last night. the public knows that and now to
suggest that the facts support what his position is supposed to be i don't think carries. >> you know, i got to ask you a personal question about the president. you know, i do look up to him in so many ways. when i'm with him i say to myself and i do this objectively, i listen to him after he's briefed us on something, this guy ought to be president. he has the command of the issues. he has scope. he has relevance. he can talk to you as regular person in common english as well as the wonk talk. he has an iq that is way up there. yet last night he was tongue tied. he let the other guy own the room. what do you think was on his mind before we get on to romney. i know you think a lot about this and care a lot, mayor. >> i think what happened last night is i think barack obama frankly went to sleep. he had anticipated being perceived as arrogant, being perceived as a genius, being perceived as taking advantage of a lesser, and he decided to back off of all of that. in the process, however, he
forgot to continue to think, and at each point where there needed to have been somebody calling to the world's attention the inadequacies in the presentation being made by mr. romney, the inaccuracies therein, he should have done that and it would not have been inconsistent with his being what he is supposed to be, but he didn't do that. he literally became no longer interested in what romney was saying. he stayed with his program, plan, presentation no matter what romney said, and that was a major mistake. >> it makes you believe in spying and how it's done, joan, because here is a guy that came on television last night with 60 million people roughly watching. convincing us he had crocodile tears, real tears for people on medicare, real people with problems they're worrying about keeping social security when we have him on tape telling people who paid $50,000 a head to find out what he really thinks say, i don't give a damn, i don't give a rat's behind on these 47% who are a bunch of freeloaders and parasites. you know, he said that on the record when he thought nobody was watching and then last night he has case after case of mrs. munchkin i met here and mr. brown i met here and all this. all these cases where he got deeply and emotionally concerned.
problems they're worrying about keeping social security when we have him on tape telling people who paid $50,000 a head to find out what he really thinks say, i don't give a damn, i don't give a rat's behind on these 47% who are a bunch of freeloaders and parasites. you know, he said that on the record when he thought nobody was watching and then last night he has case after case of mrs. munchkin i met here and mr. brown i met here and all this. all these cases where he got deeply and emotionally concerned. it's a performance. will they be able to work it over time? he's got five weeks left. >> he did have a very good job. i have to say that. he was prepped very well. it reminded me, he's mr. bain capital. the most important thing to that man is closing a deal. he will say anything to close a deal. he saw that last night. he was hopped up. he was on some sugar high. >> i said he's lds. he couldn't be on anything like caffeine. was it m&ms. >> spaghetti and barbecue. i heard a lot of things about what he ate but it was like a sugar high where you come down the next day and you crash. and i'm going to take a little -- i completely agree with the
mayor about the president's job, but in terms of whether you can win a second or a third day news cycle, i think the president is already coming back, and just traveling home today from the debates just every place i saw a tv monitor, somebody was fact checking mitt romney's lies, and i will call them lies. you're too nice but you let me say what i think. >> it doesn't work because once you saw lie -- mayor, last night romney said the tax plan wouldn't cost $5 trillion and wouldn't benefit the wealthy people at the expense of the middle class. take a look at him actually saying this. >> i'm not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. what i have said is i won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. that's part one. number two, i will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. and number three, i will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle income families. i will lower taxes on middle income families. >> he's going to get rid of the estate tax, mr. mayor, which aims directly at the top rate.
the people who have a quarter million bucks and want to leave it to their kids. it's for the very rich. he wants to lower the top rate from 35% to 28% for the richest people in the country. he wants to take the corporate rate from 35% to 25%. >> clearly at that stage mr. obama should have turned to him and said you are not telling the american people the truth. just as he did today in denver when he said he wasn't telling the truth. he should have looked him in the eye and said mitt romney, you are not telling the american people the truth. and then proceed to walk through as clinton would have done the mathematics to prove it. i don't think romney would have been smart enough to figure out how to get out of that hit, but obama ignored that opportunity and i think that's a mistake. joan, you're correct. he will everywhere he goes, he will save the day and correct what he didn't do last night, but 58 million people will not be able to be contacted in time for him to make that correction.
>> well, joan, last night romney made another surprising state on his health care plan this time. let's take a look at the latest variation on a theme which is i'm not as bad as i am. let's watch it. >> let's get the governor explain what you would do it obamacare is repealed. how would you replace it? >> actually, it's a lengthy description but number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan. number two, young people are able to stay on their family plan. >> well, there's a lie. keep it simple. i reserve my right to use it once in a while. his own guy came out and said, it's not in there. talking points memo reports that romney's top adviser of etch-a-sketch fame admitted romney's plan to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions wasn't as cut and dried as romney suggested. in other words, he said, with respect to pre-existing conditions, what governor romney has said in the past is for those with continuous coverage he would continue to make sure -- in other words, if you have coverage you would still have it. but he doesn't guarantee it like
the obama plan does. he doesn't do anything like he pretends to do here. >> no, he doesn't. now i'm going to be the one jumping on the president. that was another area where he got professorial and he kind of explained it but he didn't say, look, governor romney, the problem is not for people who have continuous coverage. the people is for people who have been dropped and are trying to get back into the job market and are trying to get insurance again. your plan did not do that. he came with the facts but he didn't come with the simple approach of how to hit romney with the facts when we know that this is a lie that he tells over and over and over again. >> let me defend romney just a little bit. >> okay. >> you got to understand that mr. romney believed what he said. this is a man who is unfamiliar with reality, and, therefore, he can stand there with passion and proceed to say what he said and for him it's not a lie. he really believes.
>> but on "60 minutes" with scott pelley he laid out the fact. we don't let people die in their apartments, like the only people without health care live in apartments. we get them to the e.r. that's his health care plan. he laid it out for scott. now he's coming off as the guy who cares about the little people. he doesn't. he calls them the 47 percent. he doesn't care about them. thank you, thank you very much mayor brown and thank you, joan. up next, the biggest winner in last night's debate might have been big bird. he began trending on twitter when mitt romney threatened to cut off his funding. this is "hardball," the place for politics. >> he said that he doesn't even >> he said that he doesn't even know that there's such laws that encourage outsourcing. never heard of them. he said that if it's true, he must need a new accountant. we know for sure it was not the real mitt romney because he seems to be doing just fine with his current accountant. thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on big bird.
i'm sorry, jim, i'm going to stop the subsidy to pbs. i'm going to stop other things. i like pbs. i love big bird. i actually like you, too. i'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from china to pay for it. >> coming out of last night's debate, a lot of people are just thinking about big bird's lack of job security. big bird played no small role in what turned out to be the most tweeted about political vent in u.s. history. that was last night. just his name was generating over 13 -- 17,000 tweets per minute at one point.
from one of the many big bird related accounts here it comes, if romney wins, this could be me. there's a sorry sight there. an extremely downtrodden big bird. but then he put it in perspective with, quote, geez, at least its mitt. newt would have sent me to a moon colony. what happened when "sesame street's" other residents caught wind of romney's remark? this mitt romney wants to cut pbs funding, well, blank, just got real. the pbs president called the post-debate focus on big bird, quote, unbelievable and stunning. here is a question, what is learning to make a souffle have to do with a debate? well, a whole lot if you ask comedian louis black. >> two minutes they have to speak, two minutes. do we have really the attention span of a gnat? two minutes to tell us about the economy, about the medical thing, about social security. two minutes? it's ludicrous. we should be forced to sit there.
you can't explain anything in two minutes. you can't explain how to do a souffle in two minutes. >> i love that guy. louis black. as for naming a clear winner? >> you could say romney won it because he looked mildly more alert, but i don't think anybody out there -- i'm pretty bright. i don't really know what they're saying. it sounds like english. i know it's english, but it doesn't come through. >> comedians can say what they want. any of them can say what they want as long as it's funny and he is. i think last night's results weren't in doubt. to something you may have missed because of the debate. a history-making moment for the washington nationals traditional presidential mascot race. teddy roosevelt had never won, had lost more than 500 races when this happened yesterday on the final day of the regular season. >> they're through the right field -- wait! oh, the phanatic took out the presidents. all three are down. teddy, it's time to make your
move! it's teddy and the phanatic! the winner is going to be -- teddy! >> i have never understood why he lost all the time. there you have it, washington, jefferson, and lincoln are taken down by a fake phillies phanatic. and teddy scores his first win. twitter was hopping from that one from john mccain who gave teddy a pep talk about his performance. teddy won, teddy won, teddy won. teddy's losing streak lasted 538 games for the number of votes in the electoral college. that's so d.c. it sure is. much more ahead, including the great james lipton who is going to be grading the debate performances of both president obama and mitt romney last night. he's the best. you're watching, "hardball," the place for politics.
jobless number tomorrow. we have an update on the story we brought you monday. if you recall we reported that republicans had been on a witch hunt to root out so-called voter fraud out there. may have found some in their own ranks. the activities of a firm hired by the republican national committee to register voters in florida is the subject of a criminal probe. it turns out florida authorities found enough evidence of suspicious voter registration down there by that firm to warrant a full-blown criminal investigation. the rnc hired the same questionable firm to do voter registration work in four other key swing states, nevada, colorado, virginia, and north carolina. all those states have fired the firm now and so far florida is the only state to open a criminal investigation. judith browne dianis, the co-director of the advancement program which watches some of this stuff. and michael isikoff is an nbc news national investigative correspondent. first of all, when you go out and have phony lists, that's a criminal matter apparently. >> yes, this is serious. the florida department of law enforcement is going to look into it because this is voter fraud. this is voter registration fraud, and it actually also shows that we already have laws in place to prevent voter fraud and, in fact, the state's going
to go after them and that's good. >> give me a damage report on what would happen if these people got away with what they're doing. >> what would happen is really, you know, we know at the end of the day they would not be able to vote actually because, again, we have laws in place that would not permit them to vote. >> but they're showing up on registration lists and where they end up going. >> what would happen is actually this is a fact that, you know, technology allows for them to be knocked out, and that kind of fraud is not going to happen. but we have a problem with people trying to conjure up people that they want to vote republican, and important is this particular company had allegations before in 2004 about registering people and throwing away democratic registration forms. >> i want to get to you about the role of the rnc. nobody knows who this sproul guy
is. why is the rnc dealing with a guy who is so suspicious they don't use his name? >> he's a pretty known commodity, particularly in arizona. he's been a very controversial figure there. he had been executive director of the arizona republican party, before that executive director of the christian coalition in arizona. he had, in fact, been involved in voter registration allegations in 2004 when he had been paid millions of dollars by the rnc and was -- and there were accusations people working for him this thrown away registration forms in which people were registering democrats. now, this led to an fbi -- >> so they were screwing people who were trying to vote. >> that was the allegation. there were multiple allegations along those lines. there was an fbi investigation, no charges were filed but -- >> that explains why the rnc would not want his name on their docket or close to them. >> and i should say, you know, there continued to be allegations about him.
just last year there were allegations about a recall petition in a town in arizona in which he was linked -- >> we're going to keep up with this because you're great and because i love the irony of the fact that the republicans have been yelling about fraud, there they got caught with their own problem and it's a serious one. >> thank you, judith browne dianis, michael isikoff. up next, president obama spent a lot of time looking at his notes. he must have known about -- james lipton joins us for a review of how the actors perform. this is "hardball," the place for politics and theater tonight.
now you can test-drive snapshot before you switch. visit progressive.com today. i've got some new poll numbers in some key senate races today. let's check the "hardball" scoreboard. in connecticut a quinnipiac poll shows republican linda mcmahon with a one-point lead over democrat chris murphy in that senate race for the seat held by joe lieberman. mcmahon, 48%, murphy, 47%. i think she just went ahead. in missouri senator claire mccaskill six points over republican todd akin. explained by the fact that libertarian candidate has got nine. that's valuable information there. look at this, in arizona a new ppp poll there shows democrat richard carmona, the former surgeon general of the united states, leading congressman jeff flake by two in the race to replace senator jon kyl. it's carmona, 45%, flake, 43%. i guess flake is not a good name for a candidate. we'll be right back. we're back. if politics is theater, and it is certainly, a presidential
we're back. if politics is theater, and it is certainly, a presidential debate is one of its highest forms. who better to analyze last night's drama than james lipton, host of inside the actor's studio on bravo. he joins me now. last night's opening statements set the tone for the debate and mitt romney came right out of the gate with, get this, a joke. let's watch. >> 20 years ago i became the luckiest man on earth because michelle obama agreed to marry me, and so i just want to wish, sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know that a year from now we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people. >> congratulations to you, mr.
president, on your anniversary. i'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here with me. congratulations. >> that was, i hate to say it, charming. >> yeah. >> james. >> yeah. >> where did that come from? >> it came from mitt romney. he's rather notorious for telling jokes that go over like lead balloons. this did not. he finally found his groove as far as a comedian is concerned. at least for that moment. >> let's talk about the president. he was the one i think that was the base of most consternation. you know, he was looking down a lot. did he know and what did you think about the fact of that split screen? there we are watching it now. we never didn't see the split screen it seemed, and he was pretty much ignoring it. >> unfortunately, he made the mistake that was made once before with a lot of large and loud sighs if you'll recall it. >> al gore. >> he should have been aware he was on camera. he seemed not disinterested, which would mean objective, but uninterested, and he looked as
if he really would rather be somewhere else. that's very uncharacteristic of him and very dangerous and that's what the split screen can do to you and it shouldn't have happened. >> it was as if he was saying to himself, this, too, shall pass. >> and that it can't pass quickly enough. >> yeah, anyway, clear contrast, governor romney seemingly took obama, kept looking him in the eye almost to confront him in a way, in a cultural statement like, i'm your equal, buddy. that must have -- do you think that bothered obama as a professional, you couldn't take the gaze we're looking at there, eye to eye? >> i don't know if that bothered him or not. all i know is he was talking -- i don't know to whom he was talking. he seemed to be staring out in space, whether he was talking to lehrer or the audience but was not talking directly into the camera, which is, of course, us. that's what they're supposed to do. he certainly didn't do that. there are only two places he can go. either into the camera, i think, or to his partner. to the person with whom he's
debating. he should have been looking at his partner or into the camera. the rest of it was a waste of time and of energy and made him look, i think, insufficiently interested in the moment. we say, in acting we say we have to find ourselves in the moment. and he was not in the moment. and interestingly enough, mitt romney, whom i accused in my first article i wrote about this "how to act human" after unable to relate to the public, was in the moment. he found himself in the moment. ever since i wrote that article i've been looking for the real romney. i finally decided maybe the real romney was that boss that tells lame jokes at which we're obliged to laugh at peril of our jobs. that wasn't the person who showed up last night. >> no. >> not at all. >> he reminded me of the way actors, like russell crowe, seemed like a regular guy from the street corner, a regular guy, not a college type of guy. when you see him in the movies
he's playing the master commander and gladiator, big, a big presence, a grand being. romney seems to transvigor himself that way last night. >> what he did was remarkable. think about it for a moment, chris. he walked out on the stage and fired the moderator. not only did he fire the moderator, he fired -- >> he fired big bird. >> he fired charlie rose. he fired kermit the frog for god's sake. >> watch him do that. in one of the more memorable lines of last night romney made. let's move the prompter. he made a straight shot at the moderator, pbs' jim lehrer. >> i'm going to stop the subsidy to pbs, i'm going to stop other things. i love pbs, big bird, i actually like you, too. i'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from china to pay for it. >> chris, remember what he told us, he warned us a long time ago, we should have listened, he said he liked firing people he
came out on the stage and demonstrated it for us. he was having a wonderful time. this is what we used to do at bain capital, we made a lot of money, this is what i'll do when i'm president. it's easy, just like that. he fired him. >> didn't it seem like he was the boardroom chair, walked into the boardroom, put down his papers, as if there didn't need to be anybody else in the room except employees, some of whom won't be employees much longer. it's a dominant, dominant performance. again, back to the president. what do you think was going on in his head? you have to be in the moment. i would have been terrified if i were the president thinking how dud this person, this not really great governor, this guy who's not really a person in so many ways politically, how is he dominating this airspace right now? how can that be happenening? >> it can happen on stage, in front of a camera. people have that ability. i thought president obama had that ability. a plot of us assumed that is what was going to happen last night. it didn't. turned out that romney reached inside and found somewhere inside himself this person.
this person already existed. you are right, i think. this is the president of bain capital. this is how they operate. and this is what he did. and what happened was, i think you used the word bystander. an observer. the president became on observer. sat there. stood there. listening. >> even if the instruction manual, even in the director's signals what you're supposed to do, they were told prepare a closing statement. >> oh. >> president obama's closing statement, the last opportunity to set the viewers straight on the impressions of the -- fell flat compared to governor romney's. let's watch the difference. >> you know, four years ago, i said that i'm not a perfect man and i wouldn't be a perfect president and that's probably a promise that governor romney thinks i've kept, but i also promise that i'd fight every single day on behalf of the american people. >> i know this is bigger than election about the two of us as individuals. it's bigger than our respective parties. it's an election about the course of america. i will keep america strong and get america's middle class
working again. >> that was a victory speech and concession speech. >> the president -- >> side by side. >> the president of the theater guild once taught me a lesson about writing plays. he said, jim, the most important two minutes of your play, never mind everything else, is the last two minutes before the audience goes out to intermission. that's what they'll remember. those last two minutes. those last two minutes last night were a disaster for the president and a triumph for mitt romney. the president seemed listless and anxious to get it over. and he seemed unprepared. and what's more, he seemed to be going back to his stump speech. we were listening to the cliche of the day. >> i got you. >> the platitude de jure. >> i agree with you. >> and he had so -- he had at least the time to prepare something that came from the heart. these guys -- we have been criticizing, all of us, i think, here, have been criticing romney for not speaking from the heart. last night the positions were reversed. he did speak from the heart.
now, was that the real romney or will another romney turn up? remember, he's been discarding the way a snake discards skin. it's ease city for him. he's been shifting gears constantly during the campaign. >> please come back, james. you're the best guest we have. this is so much about what was going on last night. it was comparing acting performances. i know our deep intellectuals don't like hearing that. so much of last night was performance. when we return, let me finish with the great opportunities president obama missed in last night's debate he can still catch up on. you're watching "hardball." place for politics. [ male announcer ] if you had a dollar for every dollar car insurance companies say they'll save you by switching, you'd have like, a ton of dollars. but how are they saving you those dollars? a lot of companies might answer "um" or, "no comment." then there's esurance. born online, raised by technology, and majors in efficiency. so whatever they save, you save. hassle, time, paperwork, hair-tearing-out, and yes, especially dollars.
let me finish tonight with last night's disaster. you get nowhere in life by not realizing what's done is done. president obama was not prepared for hisgovernor romney. it's about coming to work to work. he did, issuing challenges to moderator and rival alike. he owned that platform, with the sound of his voice. it was impressive, powerful, it must have been just horrible to feel the smothering all en enveloping sufficiency of the thing.
with romney in the room there didn't need to be anyone else. i'm not here to slam obama for a hard night. my concern is his readiness to speck the politics of this campaign. there's no excuse for a democratic leader to think himself excused from politics. that means mastering the 24 hour clock. back and forth of politics. war-room stuff that gets you elected, protects you from being destroyed on the way to public office or once there. simple question. did the president know he was allowed to mention, in fact, champion his saving of the american auto industry last night, allowed last night to interrupt the conversation about pbs funding to say, excuse me, let's talk the big stuff. i rescued the american auto industry and hundreds of thousands of jobs working for it. you, sir, were willing to have it go bankrupt. did obama know he could interrupt his rival's expression of concern for social security folk with the news his rival tells his wealthy backers behind closed doors something very different? how he sees seem who rely on social security as parasites. did obama know he could interrupt romney's weeping for medicare with a timely reminder that he, the man standing there with him, wants to give 80-year-old vouchers and send them out to fetch a health insurance policy. did the president know mitt romney just said we dole